Schools National Funding Formula hits small schools across Northumberland

Northumberland County Council’s Audit Committee Working Group are considering the detrimental effects of the proposed Schools National Funding Formula.


A report, which will be discussed at January’s Family and Children's Overview and Scrutiny Committee, looks at the how changes planned for education could affect the way small schools are run, funded and supported.


At present the local authority provides funding for all schools which are not academies.  From September 2017, school funding will be determined by the national funding formula for all schools. Local Authorities will continue to distribute funding for two years and then it will be directly allocated to schools from 2019-20.


A much reduced role is envisaged for local education authorities, which will no longer have responsibility for running schools, school improvement or allocating local funding.


The new national funding formula is made up of four blocks: per-pupil costs, additional needs’ costs, school costs and geographic costs.  The local authority will progressively lose the discretion it has historically exercised, which has allowed a degree of cross-subsidy in response to local needs of smaller schools by larger ones.  In Northumberland , this has taken the form of a fixed element of funding per school and a reduced per-pupil rate.


The ‘geographic cost’ element of the proposed national formula will not fund small schools to an equivalent amount.  It is important that small schools understand the proposals and use the transition period to plan their futures in the best educational interests of their children.


The Audit Committee Working Group was established to provide an evidence based position statement and a range of options available for small schools, and for the council, in relation to national policy changes concerning the funding of small schools and Local Authority Education teams.


Chair of the Audit Committee Working Group, Cllr Anne Dale, said: “Delivering the best possible education is a priority for us and we have been working proactively with small schools ahead of the funding formula being issued.


“The White Paper envisages that a ‘schools-led’ systems will provide the support services which have been previously provided by the local authorities, with institutions collaborating to access the support they need.


“Our concern is that the transition impacts adversely on the opportunities for young people.  Small schools are clearly vulnerable, as the changes will reduce their budgets.


“As a local authority, we are aware that the changes in funding will require us to work even more closely with partners to ensure a successful educational delivery in Northumberland.”


The Audit Committee Working Group have proactively given consideration to the effects of the new funding formula. Some activity has already taken place, with a variety of recommendations and suggested actions being made in the report, including:

  • The local authority to hold meetings with the most financially vulnerable small schools in Northumberland and begin a dialogue with them about their financial plans for the future.

  • A conference to be organised for vulnerable small school leaders to examine the challenges they face and share good practice and action plan in the light of the new national funding formula.

  • The local authority to work with the schools forum, to establish a new formula that will enable the High Needs funding shortfall to be addressed for pupils with special educational needs

The report will be discussed at the Family and Childrens Overview and Scrutiny Committee on 19th January 2017, with recommendations given to Cabinet in February.
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